Beautifully tragic, this should garner Yamanaka the wider attention she deserves.

BEHOLD THE MANY

In this superb seventh novel from Yamanaka (Father of the Four Passages, 2001, etc.), the ghosts of children curse the living, and a young woman finds salvation in early-20th-century Hawaii.

Anah Medeiros finds some consolation in being sent to St. Joseph’s to recover from tuberculosis—she can comfort her young sisters Leah and Aki, already there. And at least away from home, she’ll be safe from her brute of a father, a Portuguese laborer who molests her on drunken mornings, and she can escape her Japanese mother’s decline into numb sorrow. Abandoned at St. Joseph’s, the girls are beaten and berated by the nuns who deem them unclean half-breeds. Only Leah has some joy, in the form of ghostly Seth, a dairyman’s son who died tree-climbing on the grounds. Soon, though, Leah dies, as does fierce Aki, leaving Anah alone, but not alone, as she is now haunted by a crying Leah, a violent, naked Aki, a silent Seth and the legions of children who have died at St. Joseph’s, begging Anah to take them home, feed their hunger, find their mothers. Yamanaka creates a heartbreaking portrait of these ghost children, made more wretched when Anah’s father dies, and in his spirit form begins to abuse Aki and Leah. Anah finds a friend in Sister Mary Deborah, who teaches her everything about beekeeping, and Anah finds love in Ezroh Soares, Seth’s brother. When she turns 18, Ezroh steals her away from St. Joseph’s and into marriage, but Seth puts a curse on Anah that all her children will be girls and monsters. Yamanaka’s magical story of Anah is also an uncompromising depiction of a hard immigrant life in Hawaii, of Chinese opium dens and Japanese laborers and Portuguese cowboys and whites eager to tame the lot of them. Finally, though Anah becomes prosperous in the beekeeping business, Seth’s curse holds sway and Anah must sacrifice what she loves best so the crying ghost children can find their way home to God.

Beautifully tragic, this should garner Yamanaka the wider attention she deserves.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-11015-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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